“It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer”

glen canyon glyphosate June 2016 - Shrubs encroaching on grassland video

Applying Glyphosate in Glen Canyon

Marion Copley was a scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency. She died of cancer in January 2014. Before she died, she sent the letter below to her former boss Jess Rowland, saying “It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer.”

Now,  a lawsuit by people with cancer or who lost loved ones to cancer, asks to depose Mr. Rowland. They allege that Monsanto has influenced the EPA through its ties to people there. (The Huffington Post report on that is HERE: Questions about EPA-Monsanto collusion raised in cancer lawsuits )

copley-correspondence-jess-rowland

Herbicides in San Francisco’s ‘Natural Areas’: 2016 Report

We finally received all the 2016 pesticide use reports from San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD), including of course the Natural Resources Department (formerly the Natural Areas Program). Coincidentally, it’s oxalis season, and by the logic of the NRD – it’s Garlon time. Of which more below.

In April 2016, SF Department of the Environment rolled out its new guidelines for pesticide use. Since then, the other parks sections nearly eliminated pesticides – but not NRD. They reduced their use of Roundup quite drastically (thankfully, since it’s a probable carcinogen). But they increased their usage of Garlon and Imazapyr.

OTHER SFRPD CUT HERBICIDE USE MUCH MORE THAN NRD

San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (ex Harding Golf Course, which is under a management contract with the PGA Tour) has all but stopped using herbicides – except for the so-called Natural Resources Department.

 

nrd-vs-sfrpd-herbicide-application-2016-smLooking at the whole of 2016, SFRPD used pesticides 159 times. Of those, 143 applications were by the NRD.

NRD used more of nearly all Tier I and Tier II herbicides. It used 48% of the total Roundup SFRPD applied; 100% of the Garlon; 100% of the Imazapyr (Stalker, Polaris); and 99% of the Milestone VM.

Excluding for Greenmatch, a herbicide that is considered organic (but still classified as Tier II), NRD used more Tier I and Tier II herbicides than the rest of SFRPD put together. (As usual, we exclude Harding Golf Course, which is under a management contract to the PGA Tour and uses pesticides to maintain tournament readiness.)

The good news is that NRD has succeeded in reducing herbicide use, mainly by cutting back sharply on Roundup. Even if not as much as other SFRPD departments, it’s progress. It is still not down to 2009  or even 2008 levels, but has reduced substantially from 2013, which was peak pesticide for NRD (then NAP).

nrd-herbicide-volume-ai-2008-2016-sm2

PUC LAND UNDER NRD HERBICIDE REGIMEN

This year, NRD also started managing – i.e. spraying with herbicides – certain parks belonging to SF PUC:

  • Lake Merced,
  • Laguna Honda, and
  • part of Twin Peaks.

Since they are following the same regimen and using NRD staff, we include the PUC data along with NRD information.

WHICH PARKS?

We thought we’d take a look at which parks they treated most often with herbicides in 2016. Bayview Hill was the clear “winner” with 34 applications. McLaren Park was hit 27 times, and Twin Peaks 25 times. Glen Canyon had 10 applications of herbicides, and Mt Davidson was herbicided 8 times.

GARLON, THE MOST TOXIC HERBICIDE PERMITTED BY SF ENVIRONMENT

To return to Garlon, the most toxic herbicide SF Environment allows for use in SFRPD. It’s classified as Tier I (Most Hazardous) and the notation on the list says: Subject to “Limitations on most restricted
herbicides”. Use only for targeted treatments of high profile or highly invasive exotics via dabbing or injection. May use for targeted spraying only when dabbing or injection are not feasible.
HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND ALTERNATIVE

It’s been “High Priority to Find Alternative” in all the years we’ve been studying this issue. Here’s the solution: Stop obsessing over oxalis.

The only current use for Garlon in SFRPD is battling oxalis in “Natural Areas.” It’s been used 23 times in 2016 by NRD – and zero times by all the other departments.

The obsession with oxalis makes no logical sense. Our article Five Reasons it’s Okay to Love Oxalis and Stop Poisoning it points out that:

Honeybee in oxalis flower

Honeybee in oxalis flower

1) It’s already part of the ecological food web in our city, providing nectar to honey-bees, bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinators. Ironically, the pollination doesn’t benefit the oxalis, which doesn’t set seed in San Francisco.

2) It’s good for wildlife, providing food for gophers, a foundation species that in turn feed predators from hawks and owls and herons to coyotes and foxes.

3) The myth is that oxalis leaves the ground bare after it dies down in summer. Actually, it enriches the soil with phosphorus, which benefits the grasslands in which it grows.

4) Oxalis has little impact on native plants. NRD argues that oxalis takes over grasslands and destroys them, particularly the native grasses. However, grasslands in most of California including San Francisco are dominated non-native grasses. The change occurred over 100 years ago, when these grasses were planted for pasture. So the grassland that NAP is defending with herbicides are primarily non-native anyway.

According to a study: “Oxalis is a poor competitor. This is consistent with the preferential distribution of Oxalis in disturbed areas such as ruderal habitats, and might explain its low influence on the cover of native species in invaded sites.
The California Invasive Plant Council rates its invasiveness as “moderate,” considering it as somewhat invasive in sand dunes and less so in coastal bluff areas.
oxalis and california poppies sm
In San Francisco, every place where oxalis grows is already a disturbed environment, a mix of non-native grasses and plants with native plants (some of which have been artificially planted).  Here,  oxalis appears to grow happily with other plants – including, for instance, the native California poppy in the picture above.

5) Kids love it, and it’s edible. Parents know that children will often nibble on “sourgrass” – indeed, so do parents sometimes! Adding toxic herbicides is a poor idea, especially since it is usually applied during the flowering season.

Photo credit: Badjonni (Creative Commons - Flickr)

Photo credit: Badjonni (Creative Commons – Flickr)

So, to summarize:

“There’s no sign that oxalis has a negative impact on wildlife, and plenty of evidence it’s already part of the ecological food web of our city.  The evidence also suggests it’s not having a negative effect on other plants in San Francisco either. Lots of people find this flower attractive; one writer described it as the city smiling with Bermuda buttercups.

In any case, even Doug Johnson of the California Invasive Plant Council doesn’t think it’s worth attacking at a landscape level: the payoff isn’t worth the expense. Removing it from the hundreds of acres in Natural Areas isn’t as simple as eradicating it from a small yard where it’s clashing with the garden design. It requires a lot of work, a lot of powerful herbicides, a multi-year effort – and for what?

The justification for using strong pesticides like Garlon to control it is weak. We call on NAP to stop using Tier I and Tier II herbicides altogether.”

NEW SURFACTANT UNDER-STUDIED

NRD has been trying to reduce the amount of Garlon in each application used by changing to a new surfactant for Garlon: CMR Silicone Surfactant. (A surfactant is a chemical used with a pesticide to make it spread better.)

This is also a dubious chemical.A 2016 NIH paper, Toxicological Risks of Agrochemical Spray Adjuvants: Organosilicone Surfactants May Not Be Safe, suggests that these surfactants have a deleterious effect on bees (which we know visit oxalis), and point out that they are under-regulated:

“Agrochemical risk assessment that takes into account only pesticide active ingredients without the spray adjuvants commonly used in their application will miss important toxicity outcomes detrimental to non-target species, including humans.”

(You can download the whole paper as a PDF here: fpubh-04-00092

Citation:
Mullin CA, Fine JD, Reynolds RD and Frazier MT (2016)

Toxicological Risks of Agrochemical Spray Adjuvants: Organosilicone Surfactants May Not Be Safe.
Front. Public Health 4:92.
doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00092

Rally for Trees & Against Pesticides in Our Parks!  Feb 28, 2017

rally-and-hearing-feb-2017

Rally for Trees & Against Pesticides in Our Parks!

Join Our City and San Francisco Forest Alliance to demand that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote to reject the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that allows the Recreation and Park Department to cut down over 18,000 trees and spray toxic herbicides to ‘manage’ our public parks.

After the rally we will assemble in the City Hall Board of Supervisors chamber, room 250, to speak in favor of the appeal to block Rec & Park’s plan.

Rally
WHEN:       1:00 pm Tuesday February 28th
WHERE:     SF Civic Center Plaza (across from City Hall, Polk St. steps

Hearing
WHEN:       3:00 pm Tuesday February 28th
WHERE:     Board of Supervisors Chamber, SF City Hall, Room 250
(come early to get a seat)

Map – http://tinyurl.com/SFCityHall-Plaza-BART
Directions – http://sfgov.org/cityhall/directions-city-hall

More information: https://sfforest.org and https://sfforest.org/blog-updates/

See you at City Hall!

San Francisco Forest Alliance

Public opinion does make a difference!

Thank you for your support

The San Francisco Forest Alliance is a non-profit 501(c)4 environmental organization working to protect urban forests, reduce pesticide use, and preserve access to our parks.

 

Mt Davidson: Toxic Garlon, Felled Trees

On a recent trip to Mount Davidson, a visitor saw that Garlon had been sprayed on oxalis.

The Natural Resources Department (NRD, formerly Natural Areas Program) is the most frequent user of pesticides in San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD).  It applied herbicides on Mt Davidson 8 times in 2016. Other SFRPD units have all but stopped using herbicides.

Notice of Garlon 4 Ultra on Oxalis on Mt Davidson, San Francisco CA

Garlon 4 Ultra on Oxalis on Mt Davidson, San Francisco CA

The Natural Resource Department (NRD, formerly Natural Areas Program or NAP), observed the SF Department of the Environment guideline to use blue dye with its herbicides (so people can see and avoid those areas).

Blue dye indicates Garlon 4 Ultra on Mt Davidson Jan 2017

Blue dye indicates Garlon 4 Ultra on Mt Davidson Jan 2017

Unfortunately, they flouted the SF Environment guideline that says there should be no herbicides used within 15 feet of a trail. “Blue dye is right next to and on the trails…” said the visitor.

Here’s a picture of blue dye on the trail.

Blue dye shows Garlon on the path on Mt Davidson, Jan 2017

Blue dye shows Garlon on the path on Mt Davidson, Jan 2017

Garlon by the trail on Mt Davidson, San Francisco, Jan 2017

Garlon by the trail on Mt Davidson, San Francisco, Jan 2017

GARLON IS VERY TOXIC

The SF Department of the Environment (SF Environment), which is responsible for the Integrated Pest Management guidelines, lists Garlon 4 Ultra as a Tier I chemical, Most Hazardous. Ever since we started following this issue, it’s been on the list with a bold, capitalized statement: HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE.

Garlon is also supposed to be twenty times as toxic to women as to men. (See page 28 of this California Native Plant Society Presentation which discusses best management practices in herbicide use: Law_Johnson 2014 presentation toxicity )

An article on SaveSutro.com, based on a detailed study by the Marin Municipal Water Department, describes some of the issues with Garlon:

  • Garlon “causes severe birth defects in rats at relatively low levels of exposure.” Baby rats were born with brains outside their skulls, or no eyelids. Exposed adult females rats also had more failed pregnancies.
  •   Rat and dog studies showed damage to the kidneys, the liver, and the blood.
  •   About 1-2% of Garlon falling on human skin is absorbed within a day. For rodents, its absorbed twelve times as fast. It’s unclear what happens to predators such as hawks that eat the affected rodents.
  • Dogs  may be particularly vulnerable; their kidneys may not be able to handle Garlon as well as rats or humans.  Dow Chemical objected when the Environmental Protection agency noted decreased red-dye excretion as an adverse effect, so now it’s just listed as an “effect.”
  •  It very probably alters soil biology. “Garlon 4 can inhibit growth in the mycorrhizal fungi…” ( soil funguses that help plant nutrition.)
  •  It’s particularly dangerous to aquatic creatures: fish (particularly salmon); invertebrates; and aquatic plants.
  •  Garlon can persist in dead vegetation for up to two years.

parent and child with oxalisThis highly toxic chemical is used by NRD against oxalis during its flowering season – in winter and spring. On Mount Davidson, they used it in February  and December 2016 as well.

It doesn’t make logical sense. Here’s our article on Five reasons it’s okay to love oxalis and stop poisoning it.

TREES BEING FELLED

Meanwhile, another visitor sent us a series of pictures showing trees being felled at the southwest end of the forest.

tree-noticed-to-be-removed-mt-davidson-jan-2017 tree-x-ed-out-jan-mt-davidson-2017 former-trees-mt-davidson-jan-2017.

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Roundup Herbicide and Liver Disease – a New Study

petition picture against roundup

A recent study published by Nature.com shows evidence of liver disease from long-term low-dose exposure to Roundup. Predictably, Monsanto has been dismissive. Rats that consumed a very little Roundup in their water developed liver problems. [Here’s the study: Mesnage, R. et al. Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide. Sci. Rep. 7, 39328; doi: 10.1038/srep39328 (2017)]

TWO YEARS, LOW DOSES OF ROUNDUP

The study, performed by scientists from King’s College in the UK and University of Caen, France, took two years. They designed it to evaluate a realistic situation where exposure is to the formulated product, not the active ingredient (glyphosate) alone. They gave a group of rats water contaminated with a small amount of Roundup, while the control group was given clean water.

“… a 2-year study was conducted where rats were administered with a Roundup GBH via drinking water at a concentration of 0.1 ppb (0.05 μg/L glyphosate; daily intake 4 ng/kg bw/day), which is an admissible concentration within the European Union (0.1 μg/L) and USA (700 μg/L)18. The results showed that Roundup caused an increased incidence in signs of anatomical pathologies, as well as changes in urine and blood biochemical parameters suggestive of liver and kidney functional insufficiency.”

THE RESULTS

The researchers found that when the rats were young, the effects were not significant, but as the rats aged, the ones consuming Roundup developed liver disease much more than the control group that drank clean water.

“The results of the study presented here imply that chronic consumption of extremely low levels of a GBH formulation (Roundup), at admissible glyphosate-equivalent concentrations, are associated with marked alterations of the liver proteome and metabolome. These changes in molecular profile overlap substantially with biomarkers of [Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease] NAFLD and its progression to NASH [non-alcoholic steatohepatosis].”

We should caution that the sample size was small (10 rats in each group), and the researchers themselves point out that they cannot be certain that the effect carries over to humans. Nevertheless, it’s certainly another reason for caution, and a lot of sites concerned with chemicals are picking up the news. For example: The Organic Consumers Association.

 

 

San Francisco Parks and Pesticides, Jan-Oct 2016

2016-11-02_mtd-imazapyr-blackberryOur regular readers may know that we have been following the use of herbicides in our city parks, and particularly in our so-called Natural Areas. Contrary to their name, they are a major user of herbicides. We collect the monthly pesticide use reports under the Sunshine Act, and compile and analyze them.

For the first 10 months of the year:

  • The good news is that the volume of Tier I and Tier II herbicides used in our parks has dropped considerably.
  • The bad news is that it’s dropped less in Natural Areas.

(The “Tier” classification is the SF Department of the Environment – SF Environment – designation for hazard. Tier III is Least Hazardous, Tier II is More Hazardous, and Tier I is Most Hazardous.)

HERBICIDAL FREQUENT FLYERS

The Natural Areas Program, which has rebranded itself the Natural Resources Department (as though it was responsible for leasing out mineral rights) was hands down the most frequent user of herbicides in the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD). It was remarkable. We get the pesticide usage reports in the form of individual reports from around 30 departments within SFRPD. Each month, the vast majority of them said “No Pesticides Used.”

From January through October, SFRPD (excluding Harding Golf Course) used herbicides 126 times. Of those, 107 applications were in Natural Areas. And if we include the NAP-managed areas under SFPUC control (Laguna Honda, Lake Merced), the NAP application number rises to 111 of the 126 applications. NAP made 85% of SFRPD’s herbicide applications.

(These numbers exclude Harding Park golf course, which is under a management contract to the PGA Tour, and thus not under SFRPD control as such. Unlike the other SFRPD golf courses, Harding does use a lot of pesticide. However, it’s mostly in areas where the general public are unaffected.)

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

After a sharp increase in herbicide use from 2010 through 2013, the Natural Areas Program finally started reducing their volume of herbicide use in 2014. That continued in 2015, and it seems to be on track to continue through 2016. Total usage is finally going back toward 2008 level (but has not yet reached 2009 levels, the lowest since we started tracking NAP’s herbicide use).  NAP’s greatest success has been to reduce Roundup (glyphosate) use. In the first ten months of 2016, it had already increased its use of Garlon (tricyclopir), imazapyr, and Milestone VM (aminopyralid) over 2015 levels. However, they are down from 2013, which was peak pesticide for NAP.

herbicide-use-2008-2016

We’ve had people asking, so why didn’t they do it before? That’s a good question, but at least they are doing it now. However, the sharp rise between 2009 and 2010 shows that it behooves us to be watchful, since there’s a precedent for an unexpected increase.

GARLON FOR SOURGRASS

oxalis and california poppies smIn the first ten months of 2016, NRD (formerly NAP) has already exceeded the amount of Garlon they used in all of 2015. They applied it 19 times, for a total of 95 fl ounces, as compared with 63 fluid ounces used in 13 applications for all of 2015. We expect this number will increase by year end.

The main reason NRD uses Garlon is against oxalis. With very little evidence other than some assertions by Jake Sigg, they insist that oxalis will destroy all other plants in a landscape. Empirical evidence suggests this is not true.

Garlon is a particularly hazardous chemical. San Francisco’s Department of the Environment classifies Garlon 4 Ultra as Tier I: Most Hazardous. It’s been listed as HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE (their caps) at least since we started following the issue. It’s also supposed to be twenty times as toxic to women as to men. (See page 28 of this California Native Plant Society Presentation which discusses best management practices in herbicide use: Law_Johnson 2014 presentation toxicity )

The easy way to stop using using this chemical would be for NAP to stop obsessing about oxalis. They are currently the only users of Garlon in our parks. This would be an easy win for NAP and for SFRPD.

The “fearsome four” herbicides that NAP uses are: Garlon and Roundup, currently both Tier I; and imazapyr and Milestone VM, both Tier II. (SF Environment sometimes changes the classification: Milestone was earlier Tier I, because of its astonishing persistence, but is now Tier II; and Roundup was Tier II but has been reclassified as Tier I since the finding that it is a probable carcinogen.)

They are all concerning. Garlon and Roundup are both hazardous to human health, and imazapyr and Milestone are both mobile in the soil, meaning they don’t stay put, as well as very persistent. The frequent use of imazapyr in forested areas is especially problematic, since it can damage tree roots over time even if it’s targeted at something else, like blackberry.

OTHER SFRPD DEPARTMENTS DID BETTER

As we mentioned above, while NAP (or NRD) did reduce herbicide use in 2016, the rest of SFRPD did much better.

After April 2016, when SF Dept of the Environment had some training sessions for SFRPD, the use of herbicides dropped sharply. Between May and October, only two departments of SFRPD used herbicides besides the Natural Areas – the Golden Gate Nursery and the Balboa Sports Complex. Most of those were Tier II, not Tier I herbicides.  One of the Tier II herbicides that the Nursery used is Greenmatch, actually approved for organic gardening use. It’s only classified as Tier II because of a handling risk with the concentrate, but it is harmless to the public once applied.

In the first ten months of 2016, NAP, which controls 1/3 of the parkland in San Francisco, used nearly 2/3 of the Tier 1 herbicides.

nap-herbicide-use-vs-sfrpd-other-jan-oct-2016NAP (or NRD) used 44% of the Roundup used in our parks, 100% of the Garlon, and around 99% of the imazapyr and Milestone VM.

This pattern of frequent use, together with the fact that NAP still applies more herbicides than any comparable parks area, makes for a great deal of public uncertainty. With over 100 applications a year, park users are quite likely to encounter herbicide spraying. Furthermore, as people have started observing and reporting, it’s also becoming apparent that the notices – and possibly the reports – are not always accurate, and that guidelines are not always followed. At the recent hearing, the public expressed concern about herbicides in runoff and ground water. We renew our call to SFRPD to stop using herbicides in Natural Areas altogether.

2016-11-02_mtd-cutting-eucalyptus-herbicide

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Disturbing Story of the Mt Davidson Bench

Here’s the story of the Mount Davidson Eagle Scout bench, from its sudden removal by the Natural Areas Program, to the silly lie included in the Environmental Impact Report on the Natural Resource Areas Management Plan.  The Natural Area Program’s disregard for the public is illustrated at every twist and turn along the way.

Once upon a time, there was a nice little bench on Mt. Davidson.  It was built by Boy Scouts.  It wasn’t much, but people liked it and it was well used.

benchphoto1

THIS IS THE BENCH THE SCOUTS BUILT

Then one day the bench disappeared.  Who were the vandals?

It turns out it was actually the work of our RPD Natural Areas Program.  When people complained they received this response from NAP management:

To: XXXXXXXXXXX
CC: XXXXXXXXXXXX; Lisa.Wayne@sfgov.org
Subject: Re: Bench missing on Mt. Davidson
From: Christopher.Campbell@sfgov.org
Date: Thu, 27 May 2010 08:42:45 -0700

Hello XXXXXX,

The bench that you’re referring to was installed by the Recreation and Park Natural Areas Program. It was installed a number of years ago on this site to take advantage of the views, beauty and serenity of the plateau. We monitored the use of the bench and it unfortunately became an attractive nuisance. The secluded location was a draw for night time drinking and smoking. Bottles were thrown down the hill slope and most often broke, causing a hazard for both animals and people. Secondly the bench became a draw for commercial dog walkers, at times with more than 12 dogs in the area at once. This activity resulted in trampling of this sensitive slope, disturbance of wildlife and the creation of trails around the bench. One of the trails remains in the grassland below the bench location. After consideration we concluded it was best to remove this bench.

Over the coming year we will evaluate the installation of benches city-wide. This will be done in correlation with a natural areas trail project . Due to the activities associated with this bench we unfortunately do not have intentions to re-install one on the lower plateau at Mount Davidson.

Sorry for the disappointment this may bring,

Christopher Campbell
Natural Areas Program

 

Why does NAP management take credit for installing this popular bench?  They had nothing to do with it.  Why did they remove it?  Because people liked it and it attracted them to this area of the park. Clearly the NAP does not want us in their Natural Areas.

storyphoto2

THIS IS THE BENCH THAT WAS UNDER THE TREE THE NATIVISTS KILLED

After much pressure, the NAP finally installed a replacement bench a bit higher up the mountain.  For some reason they sited it right under a dead tree.  In fact, it was a tree they had killed by girdling some years earlier.  Given the NAP’s zeal for removing even slightly hazardous trees along its “trail Improvement” projects, it seems especially odd they would site a popular amenity directly under this tree.

Can you guess what happened next?  The tree fell over right across the bench.  Thankfully no one was sitting there at the time.

benchphoto3

In the photo below you can see where a wide ring of bark was cut away to kill the tree.

benchphoto4

It appears when the facts don’t suit the writers of the EIR, they substitute other “facts.”

That brings us to today.  The final Environmental Impact Report for the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan (SNRAMP) has been released.  In the section addressing public comments made during review of the draft EIR the bench makes another appearance. (page 4-340)  In response to questions raised by the public about the removal of benches from NAP areas, some specifically citing the Mt Davidson bench, the NAP offers the following response,

“These comments refer to prohibition benches and the removal of a bench at Mt. Davidson Park. In 2011, SFRPD removed a bench on the northern portion of Mt. Davidson because it was rotting and unsafe for sitting. In late 2012, SFRPD installed a replacement bench close to where the unsafe bench had been located.”

“rotting and unsafe for sitting”?.  That is a bold lie.  How many other items in the SNRAMP EIR are based on fabrications like this? (Quite a few)

Claiming the original was unsafe and installing a replacement right under a tree they purposefully killed – That is disturbingly ironic.

benchphoto5

 

This little story is just the tip of the iceberg.

See the rest of the problems with the SNRAMP EIR at:
https://sfforest.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/arguments-against-certification-of-snramp-eir.pdf

Additional coments against EIR organized on CA Environmental Quality Act Criteria